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Council lends support to UWS workers

Superior’s City Council adopted a resolution supporting buildings and grounds staff at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.

At least half of the council members agreed university decision-making should be left campus administration.

The resolution introduced by Councilor Warren Bender urged UWS to reject any and all proposals to privatize vital campus function such as buildings and grounds.

Reading from the resolution, Bender said there is increasing economic equality that is a growing problem that threatens communities across the nation.

Buildings and grounds workers at the campus were notified their jobs could be in jeopardy. The warning comes as the university faces millions in losses as a result declining enrollment, tuition freezes and reduced state support for the institution.

The university has already privatized its bookstore and suspended some academic programs to close the gap on an expected loss of revenue of about $4.5 million over five years.

Councilor Dennis Dalbec, seconded by Jack Sweeney, made a motion to receive and file the resolution than voting on the measure.

“I certainly do not want to see anyone lose their job,” Dalbec said. “The point is, this does not belong in this venue. It is not illegal … it is just not appropriate.”

In a memo to the council, City Attorney Frog Prell said opinion resolutions are often used by the Superior Common Council, and have been used in the past to express opinions in labor matters such as when the Council urged Crystal Sugar to negotiate with locked out workers.

Dalbec said it is not up to the council to get involved in university issues, and the council has no role to play in solving the university’s problems.

“I hope they do solve it to the betterment of everyone,” Dalbec said.

“I also think this is water we should not tread on,” said Councilor Jack Sweeney. “This is not our business.”

Council President Bob Finsland agreed it isn’t the providence of the council to weigh in on university business but suggested councilors could act independently to support buildings and grounds staff at the university.

A motion to receive and file the resolution without a vote failed in a 5-4 split.

Councilor Tom Fennessey, director of Facilities Management at UWS, abstained from the vote because of his professional involvement in the matter.

Dalbec, Sweeney, Finsland and Councilors Denise McDonald and Mike Herrick voted in favor of receiving and filing the resolution.

Bender, and Councilors Dan Olson, Terry Massoglia and Esther Dalbec voted against the motion, which failed because it requires the vote of six members to succeed.

Mary McCauley, an employee at UWS since 1989 and chairwoman of the classified staff senate told the council that the decision will affect the city.

“We have 26 people altogether; they are taxpayers, homeowners,” she said. “They shop in our stores. If they lose their jobs, it’s going to diminish the amount of business that can be transacted.”

After the motion failed, Bender made a motion to adopt the resolution, seconded by Olson. The measure passed by unanimous voice vote.

In other business:

• The council approved increasing the fee for checks returned for insufficient funds. The new fee is $25.

• Councilors agreed upon a timeline for reviewing the city’s new debt management policy. The policy will be reviewed annually in March by the council’s Finance Committee.

• Councilors approved contracts for the K Street Sewer project.

• Councilors gave their support to National Night Out, planned for Aug. 5.